Why Is Firsthand Spiritual Knowledge Important?

After the first prophet in the Book of Mormon, Lehi, described a dream or a vision which he had experienced, one of his sons—Nephi—wanted to have the same experience. He tells us that he wanted “to see, and hear, and know of these things, by the power of the Holy Ghost” (1 Nephi 10:17). Later, as he sat pondering his father’s words, he saw a vision in which he interacted with an angel, saw the symbols from his father’s dream, and gained greater understanding about the meaning of those symbols.

When he returned to his family’s camp, he was frustrated to find his brothers arguing about his father’s words. He asked if they had “inquired of the Lord.” When they answered that they had not. Nephi chastised them: “Do you not remember the things which the Lord hath said?—If ye will not harden your hearts, and ask me in faith, believing that ye shall receive, with diligence in keeping my commandments, surely these things shall be made known unto you” (1 Nephi 15:10-11).

Primary sources are better than secondary sources. Firsthand experience provides a more complete education than hearing or reading the opinions of other people.

The ultimate source of spiritual truth is God Himself. That is why the prophet Joseph Smith said, “Could you gaze into heaven five minutes, you would know more than you would by reading all that ever was written on the subject (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Joseph Smith, “Chapter 36: Receiving the Ordinances and Blessings of the Temple“)

As I’ve thought today about the importance of direct spiritual experiences, I’ve identified three reasons it is important for us to seek answers directly from God:

  1. Because our Heavenly Father knows more than any mortal. Any time you receive information second hand, it is subject to the limitations of the messenger. Some of God’s messengers—the prophets and apostles—have been very pure and very careful to pass the messages on faithfully. But if we really want to understand the full implications of those messages in our lives, and if we want to be able to receive personalized messages, we need to also go directly to the source.
  2. Because we grow as we engage in the process of spiritual inquiry. As Elder David A. Bednar taught last Sunday: “Our personal responsibility is to learn what we should learn, to live as we know we should live, and to become who the Master would have us become” (“Prepared to Obtain Every Needful Thing,” General Conference, April 2019). In other words, we aren’t just seeking information. We are engaged in a process of transformation. This will not happen just by obeying messages delivered by other people. It will happen as we engage directly with our Heavenly Father and with His Son, Jesus Christ.
  3. Because spiritual headwinds are growing in the world. A year ago, President Russell M. Nelson said, “In coming days, it will not be possible to survive spiritually without the guiding, directing, comforting, and constant influence of the Holy Ghost (“Revelation for the Church, Revelation for Our Lives,” General Conference, April 2018). Last week, Elder Bednar underscored that point: “As important as home-centered and Church-supported learning is for our spiritual strength and protection today, it will be even more vital in the future.” We need to learn to receive revelation from God so that we will be prepared for the challenges we will face, individually and collectively, in the future.

Today, I will strive to receive firsthand spiritual knowledge. I will place myself in a position where I can receive communication from God through His Spirit. I will remember that direct revelation from Him will give me a more comprehensive understanding of spiritual things, will help me progress and become what He wants me to become, and will help me prepare for future challenges.

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